Used Mobile Homes – A Checklist for Inspection Before Buying

When buying a used mobile home, there are several things to keep in mind. This useful checklist can help ensure you end up with a structurally sound manufactured home to call your own.

Avoid Aluminum Wiring

Used mobile homes, particularly those originally built in the 1970’s, might be equipped with aluminum wiring. Aluminum wire can be a fire hazard; it expands when it warms and contracts when it cools, causing the wiring to loosen over time. Also, aluminum oxidizes or corrodes when it contacts certain metals. This combination can lead to sparking in the walls. To check the wiring, first shut off the electricity. Then, remove an electrical outlet or switch cover and look inside. If the bare ends of the wires are silver in color, they are more than likely aluminum. If you find a home you love with aluminum wiring, you may want to have a professional evaluate it.

Gaps around Door and Window Frames

When mobile homes are purchased and set up, they are placed on cinder blocks to meet the frame. Over time, the home settles and can shift and move. Gaps on the top and bottom of the door frames and windows, as well as wavy interior walls, can be an indication of a home that needs to be re-leveled. A manufactured home dealer or contractor can do this inexpensively. Be wary of any mobile home that has settled too much; it probably won’t be a good purchase, even if re-leveled.

Check Ceilings for Stains and Exterior of Roof for Sagging

If you notice stains on the ceiling of the mobile home, it can indicate a roof leak. If it has rained recently and the stains are dry, leaks have likely been repaired. But if they’re wet, that’s another story. Additionally, if the stains have multiple rings, this likely means that the roof has leaked on several occasions which may be a sign of larger issues.

Check Exterior for Wavy Shingles or Sagging Roof Lines

When you buy a mobile home, be sure to check that the shingles don’t appear wavy, brittle or curled. All of these can be an indication of heat build up in an attic with poor ventilation, which is fairly common in older mobile homes. If you see this on a used mobile home you’re considering buying, you’ll probably need to replace the shingles. Also, be sure to check the roof for sagging, as this may indicate that there is rotten wood in the roof support.

Got a Metal Roof? Check for Rust

Just like the famous “Love Shack” song by the B52’s, if the “tin roof rusted,” this means the mobile home has a metal roof that was not properly sealed. Sealing on a metal manufactured home roof should be done every twelve to eighteen months.

Step on Floors to Check for Soft Spots

Many used mobile homes, particularly older ones, have particle-board flooring. When these floors sustain significant water damage, they become soft and sponge-like. This can cause them to warp or even rot. Step on the floors throughout the home to look for any soft spots, especially in the bathrooms. Pay particular attention to the floor around a toilet; that area can be problematic because of condensation and toilet clogs.

Avoid Polybutylene Piping

If the plumbing in the home is gray, blue or black and 1/2″ to 1″ in diameter, have a licensed plumber confirm whether or not it is polybutylene piping. Many older mobile homes have poly piping, which was once used extensively because of its low cost and easy installation. However, the piping has been the source of many leaks (and lawsuits). Not only does the piping itself break down over time, the clamps that are used as tees, elbows and couplings tend to leak as well. You will want to have this plumbing replaced as the home will be difficult to sell or insure with such a high risk.

Check Window Sealant

Check the plastic beading around the windows. UV rays cause the beading to become brittle over time, allowing moisture to come into the mobile home. Hail or a small tree falling near the window can also crack the beading. If the beading is worn or cracked, you will likely need to reseal the windows.

If you’re in the market for a used mobile home, print this helpful guide and bring it with you as a reminder of what to watch out for. Keep in mind this checklist should not replace a professional’s evaluation.

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